Terrible Enough to Cry
In the meeting room of Rhuvenns Castle, I received a report from Lianne.
General Blois and Baldoir, as well as Adele-san from Beim were all here, and I was in the middle of receiving their reports.
“From the start, General Blois has been proceeding the reconstruction of Rhuvenns, so it’s going more steady than planned. It’s certain to be at least twenty percent over our predictions.”
Twenty percent was in relation to food. In order to move a large army, no… in order to move people, food was a necessity. For that sake, we had to hurry with the village rebuilding, reconstruction and development. Rhuvenns already had a development plan, so its progress was favorable.
But for it to be so smooth was also owing to Lianne’s abilities. She had a wide field of view, and securing goods and transportation routes could all be left to her.
General Blois seemed impressed as he looked over the report.
“Good job taking it this far. To be blunt, it was so jumbled, I wouldn’t have been surprised with a twenty percent reduction. Well, it’s our luck that our leader Lyle-dono is so knowledgeable about cultivating. As expected of a feudal noble, I guess?”
He thought I was lacking in on-site experience, but it seems he had revised his evaluation.
From the Jewel, I heard the Third’s voice.
『Well, we’ve all taught him this and that, but if something goes wrong, I’m here for you man. Despite how I look, I did do some field work and territory development after all.』
The Third was the lord of the time the territory started expanding, and he had knowledge and experience pertaining to development. I’d occasionally hear his advice and go to the site to apply it.
I looked at General Blois.
“How are things on your side, general?”
“Things are going favorably. I had my own subordinates from the start, and plenty with achievements and battle experience under my wing, so all that was left was to keep training and heighten morale. Well, in order to secure food supplies, a large portion of them have been sent around to agriculture, though.”
He had split his forces into three large groups, having them rotate and train on and off.
But the Beim front was more dubious. All eyes gathered on Adele-san. She looked down a bit.
“Things aren’t so good in Beim. I can only hope we reach eighty percent of our goal.”
Baldoir looked at Adele-san.
“Eighty percent, is it? I’m sure you were allotted quite a share of hands.”
He wasn’t particularily pressing her, but from Adele-san’s point of view, it wasn’t much different.
“We’re exercising caution and offering leadership, but their individualistic mindsets are simply too strong.”
Prioritizing themselves, their clash of opinions had resulted in this lag, it seems. If they were more cooperative, it would have gone as planned, but even for sending in support, there were disputes over where they would be sent.
Baldoir was mildly fed-up.
“Adele-dono, I didn’t want to say it, but I’d like it if you got a grip/”
From his point of view, it was the top dog Adele’s responsibility. But the circumstances on the Beim front were a little different. When I was about to open my mouth to follow through for her, Lianne spoke up first.
“It’s because Beim’s form of rule was a peculiar one. Up to now, they decided various things by conference, and even if Adele-san gives out orders, I’m sure they couldn’t get out of that habit.”
Baldoir didn’t seem to understand.
“If it’s meetings, we have our own.”
“Theirs were a bit different. As they didn’t have any absolute lord, it’s more that they were using time to fine tune their own claims. It would even be difficult for me, and eighty percent of schedule could have only be done by Adele-san, or so I’m led to believe.”
Lianned looked at me, and I nodded. Adele-san looked relieved as well.
“Baldoir, Beim is a special region. Within it, Adele-san is doing well.”
Baldoir looked over Adele-san.
“My apologies. It does seem I didn’t understand the rule of Beim.”
Adele-san shook her head to the side.
“It’s a fact that we weren’t able to reach our goal.”
There, Lianne took a report in hand, and perhaps she was calculating in her head as she spoke in regards to food.
“About the supplies we’ve got on hand, our purchasing is reaching its limits. Everyone’s demanding some. If things go by these calculations… as I thought, a long-term battle will be harsh.”
Maintaining a large army required just that much amount of food.
And we didn’t have the necessary stamina to carry out a long-term battle.
I looked at Lianne.
“To what extent can we fight?”
“If all goes well, we’ll somehow manage three months. But that’s the limit. To be blunt, if you don’t determine the verdict within two months, there will be hard times to come. If it surpasses three months, you’ll only have enough food to get home.”
Adele-san placed a report on the table as she spoke.
“… In Bahnseim, they’re gathering manpower at such a time, and their fields are understaffed. They’ve got a food crisis before their eyes. It’s questionable how much food is left in Centralle.”
There, the Third offered me a serious voice.
『Lyle, be careful in choosing your invasion route. Play it poorly, and you’ll pass through a number of villages plagued by food shortages. And if it comes to that… if you don’t help them, the villagers will speak tales of you abandoning them. Avoid such villages as much as possible on your march.』
As I gripped the Jewel in my fingertips and was about to roll it, the Third’s tone grew stronger.
『This isn’t a game. Do you plan to lose to Celes for some stupid reason like donating your food supplies? If you lose then in the decades to come, people will die on the millions scale.』
After some time passed, I gripped the Jewel. And in the meeting space.
“… For our route, rather than the shortest distance, we should choose a route to contain our food consumption. We have to consider the worst case where there’s no food in Centralle to take.”
Adele-san tilted her head.
“Eh? Um… if we don’t choose the shortest route, our supplies won’t hold up.”
Once Adele-san had said that much, General Blois nodded with a serious look in his face.
“I see, so we’ll be avoiding villages facing famine. We’ll have to look into them… how unpleasant.”
It seems General Blois understood. Lianne was the same.
“Considering distance and food expenditure, we need to choose the optimum route, is it? It’s true, if you abandon villages pained by starvation, it will directly affect your reputation. It will influence soldier morale as well. When they’re fighting in order to save the continent, for them not to even save the people before their eyes.”
Baldoir rubbed the inner corners of his eyes.
“… Even if you know the logic behind it, when you see it before your eyes…”
Adele-san tried to say something, but Lianne shut her up with her eyes.
I addressed everyone.
“We’ll have Rauno-sa… Rauno investigate. We’ll need more information on our advance route. I doubt anything major will change in the next few months.”
Like that, the meeting came to a close.
… After the meeting.
Adele walked beside Lianne. Diagonally behind Lianne, Valkyrie Unit Thirty Four kept herself scarce.
Adele spoke as she walked.
“For the greatest benefit to Lyle-san’s fame, instead of purposely avoiding the shortest route, we should distribute food as we head for Centralle.”
Without changing her walking speed, Lianne cut down that opinion.
“Based on the investigation, perhaps that option will come out. But with absent lords, and changes of hands, the eastern front in chaos from losing a war, no matter how you look at it, a food crisis is upon them.”
Where the roads were maintained, there were many towns and villages. Though you could also say the towns and villages were the ones looking after the roads. It was the same for cities.
For that sake, if they were thinking to use the main roads, they would be passing through numerous settlements.
“That’s why we need to save…”
Lianne spoke disinterestedly.
“Saving the weak before our eyes, will we increase the factors that will cause us to lose a battle we must win at all costs? If you still wish to choose the shortest route, then the logical choice is to propose it after you make a situation where that is possible. If you’re just here to speak ideals, then anyone could do that.”
While Lianne had followed through for her in the meeting, right now she wasn’t even trying to hear out her opinion. Adele spoke.
“We have soldiers from the east as our allies. If we abandon their homes, the root of the problem remains.”
“We never said we wouldn’t save them. We’ll help as long as food supplies permit. But what we need to prioritize is victory. Not to choose our means. Our means for victory are that alone.”
Adele grit her teeth.
“… If it vexes you, then put out a resolution. You’re not in a position that permits incompetence. And if you hate Lyle for it, then that’s illogical.”
With those words, Adele walked ahead of Lianne with swift feet.
Unit Thirty Four watched her off.
“Good grief, you’re like a villain, Lianne-san.”
Lianne let out a sigh.
“I’m not doing it because I want to. If we could save them, I would. It’s because we can’t that we won’t. We cannot mistake our priorities. And without a resolution or alternative, it’s a fool’s drivel.”
Nothing more than an ill-natured joke. Unit Thirty Four asked.
“Then what if there is a resolution?”
“After consideration, we’ll determine whether to adopt it or not. Of course, we’re pushing ourselves with food production. I thought of sending them with extra, but our present situation is one where we’re insufficient. Well, I’ll put my hopes on Adele-san doing something.”
“You won’t move yourself?”
Lianne turned to Unit Thirty Four.
“… Do you think I have that sort of time?”
The Valkyrie shook her head, letting her black hair sway.
“You do not. You are already cutting away your sleep for work. I will support you on the site. So while you are at it, quickly produce a chick and–”
Lianne silently increased her walking speed. Unit Thirty Four didn’t overlook the faint blush on her face…
“Reaction confirmed. Perhaps the day I embrace a chick in these hands is not so far off.”
… The meeting over, by the time Adele returned to South Beim, she already had bags under her eyes.
After thinking over various things, perhaps it really was as Lianne said, perhaps she had to give up, or so she dropped her shoulders, and headed to the former Guild East Branch that was quickly becoming the center of Beim.
Today once more, her subordinates were busy at work.
From the Guild’s yard, something was letting off a scent. Rather than food, it felt more like some sort of experiment was being conducted.
There, the one who supported her- Maksim- was facing a Valkyrie.
After accepting something from them, Maksim ate it with a reluctant face. There, with a grim expression…
“… Somewhat more decent, but it’s terrible. Too terrible.”
The Valkyrie, to his honest opinion.
“I did attempt to process it. It did look tasty, to say the least.”
“When my senior knight offered me one as we trained in the mountains it’s become something of a trauma. And it doesn’t look tasty either.”
What she had prepared was a potato. The Valkyrie had found a potato-like tuber that could be found growing anywhere. That potato-like thing was sturdy enough to survive in nature, but the way to cultivate it was different. It was something of a mutation.
But it was terrible. With nothing left to eat, searching for them as a last-ditch attempt in the mountains had left many with pained memories.
Among them were even some who said they would rather starve than eat them. Of course, if they were really starving, they’d probably eat them regardless.
(You can’t eat those unless you’re starving. They’re all over the place, but they’re just a hindrance, so we have to get rid of… can’t eat unless you’re starving?)
Adele ran out and snatched the tuber from Maksim’s hands.
“M-milady! You can’t. Something so terrible…! What’s more, that’s an i-indirect k–”
“Yeah, yeah, just hand it over! Urp!”
Biting down on the tuber, Adele was a little impressed by the indescribable unpleasantness spreading across her mouth.
“… It’s terrible. But edible.”
Seeing Adele shedding tears, Maksim fidgeted.
“I-I’ll prepare something to cleanse your palette at once! Oy, don’t we have anything!?”
As Maksim said that to the nearby Valkyrie, the Valkyrie expressionlessly shook her head.
“So you want me to bring you something? Good grief, after I went through the troubles of preparing it, nothing but terrible, terrible… are you trying to arouse me?”
Maksim to the Valkyrie.
“Are you sure you guys aren’t missing a screw somewhere in the head area? Why not go to Professor Damien for repairs?”
The Valkyrie showed him a teasing pose. Perhaps she was trying to assume a fighting stance.
“How rude! This is normal for us.”
“That’s even worse! … wait, Adele-sama!”
Adele cried as she scarfed down the terrible tuber. And she mustered her conviction.
“It’s alright. I managed to eat it, barely. So teach me how to cook it. With this, we can march down the shortest route!”
Maksim couldn’t understand what Adele was trying to say. But the Valkyrie seemed to get it. She grasped the hem of her skirt for a tidy curtsy.
“If it’s to help someone, I’d be delighted. While we’re at it, the food made as I teach you shall be disposed of… eaten by Maksim-san.”
Maksim turned to Adele.
“I-if Milady is making it, then no matter how terrible it is, this Maksim… shall eat it all!”
The Valkyrie shrugged and shook her head.
“There is no need for Adele-san to make it. I shall cook and you shall eat. That is all there is to it.”
Maksim’s face turned pale. But Adele continued crying as she ate. The tuber that would never normally be treated as food had moved her deeply. But it was exceptionally terrible.
“Terrible. It’s terrible.”
From an outsider’s point of view, it was surely quite a peculiar sight.
And like that, when she’d only just returned, Adele hurriedly set out for Rhuvenns castle once more…